Film Music Analysis and Pedagogy. David Neumeyer

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  • Topic: Film, Film score, Soundtrack
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  • Published : February 25, 2013
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Film Music Analysis and Pedagogy David Neumeyer

The ubiquitous videocassette gives us, for the first time, a convenient way to examine films and their music closely. Many classic films are available, especially in VHS format, and, thanks to cable stations, more films of all eras and genres are being shown on television than ever.1 Since music has been an important element in the medium from its earliest days, it follows that now we have the opportunity to invoke film scores routinely as audio-visual aids in the teaching of music and to treat them as another repertoire of twentieth-century music subject to scholarly study. Videocassettes, to be sure, have some disadvantages: rewind/fast-forward mechanisms are slow; dubbing from a video1Readers should be aware of some complications due to copyright laws, which are just as confusing for video as they are for music. It is legal to dub copies from television for personal use, but it is not legal to show these "fair copies" to a class. An instructor may show a legally owned or rented videotape to a class, but a student may not. Furthermore, the showing must be "private" (for the class only). Copyright holders are apparently especially sensitive to this issue of "public" screenings of films. None of this applies, of course, to American films now coming out of copyright (in general, those released in 1933 and earlier-but be careful of silent films reconstructed or re-released with new music accompaniments) and it may not apply to certain films released later but whose copyrights were allowed to lapse, the most famous example being It's A Wonderful Life (1947).

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1991 Indiana

Theory Review

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Indiana Theory Review Vol. 11

cassette results in significant loss of image quality, even on good machines; TV monitors lose the edges of the image (more on the sides than on top or bottom); and videotapes tend to "flatten" or "muddy" black and white images with a wide range of gray tones, and color images generally. Add to all of these, of course, some image degradation in the transfer from reel to videotape and a certain lack of "authenticity" in the loss of the big-screen effect. 2 Because of these several disadvantages, I suspect that before very long, perhaps in as little as five or six years, videodiscs or some other optical disk format will be the favored medium for home and class viewing of films, aided, one hopes, by high-definition television. Still, videotapes are inexpensive, readily available for anyone's use now, and clearly will remain serviceable tools for teaching and research for a number of years. Even now video-capture cards for microcomputers allow integration of film stills into computer-based or paper-copy pedagogical and research materials. And sound-track playback can be quite acceptable, thanks to easily made connections between video and audio reproduction equipment. In the following, then, I discuss pedagogical issues based on my recent experiences in teaching film music and I raise questions with respect to film-music research and film in music-theory scholarship. Critical viewing. A basic obstacle in film pedagogy applies also to film music: getting students to pay attention; that is, to actively structure a reading of the film as they watch. Admittedly, this is a situation very little different from the one we face teaching concert music-but if we must expend considerable energy turning students into critical listeners, in film we have the double dilemma of turning them into critical viewers of the image track as well as critical listeners to the sound track. The problem is compounded by the 2Loss of authenticity also applies to colorized versions of black-and-white films. Since it now seems apparent that the great expense, poor results, and poor audience reception will not deter the colorizers, one can only hope that videodiscs will eventually permit the viewer to turn the "color" on or off at will. (It is possible to do this now, of...
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